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This report is taken from PN Review 114, Volume 23 Number 4, March - April 1997.

Gentle Readers Neil Powell

Poets, of course, don't write for readers: for the Yeatsian fisherman, perhaps, or for a personal muse, but not for the paying punter. And by and large such aloofness -tempered as it may be by the suspicion as a poem takes shape that it might do for this or that editor - is an excellent way of keeping one's mind on the job. But as soon as we teach or talk about poetry, we are confronted with the inescapable fact that these people, this audience in front of us, are sufficiently devoted to the stuff to spend hours in uncomfortable rooms, often in dreadful weather, listening to people like me rambling on about it. They are readers, surely, of an especially valuable sort.

And so, in the inappositely-named spring term of 1996, I find myself doing a ten-week stint of alternately snowy and foggy Wednesday evenings In the Community Centre at Wangford, a village hitherto principally famous for having a singing-cowboy-pasticheur named after it. The Community Centre, though modern and comprising numerous rooms full of odd people, seems to have been built without proper provision for the East Anglian winter, so that the 'Committee Room' we're in has wall-mounted electric bar heaters: it is thus a place which starts off very cold and quickly becomes very warm, and in which listeners, even more than is usual with adult education classes, fall asleep. There is a clattery kitchen next-door, but WEA branches seem not to be great providers ...


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